Reconciling Sentimental and Radical Tendencies in the Life and Work of Fanny Fern: Her Influence on Women Newspaper Columnists

Date of Award

Fall 12-22-2009

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Margaret Murray

Second Advisor

Margaret Judith Sullivan


Far more than a conventional Victorian woman whose premature widowhood and single-motherhood compelled her to seek employment as a sentimental journalist, Fanny Fern is a both a representative of typical nineteenth-century women’s journalism and literature and a literary mentor to later generations of women novelists, poets, and newspaper columnists. While the historical records suggest that duality and contradiction characterized her private life, and the available literature demonstrates a similar dichotomy in her writing – a tension between the sentimentalism prevalent in women’s writing of the Victorian era, and the sarcasm and feminism beginning to surface near the nineteenth-century’s end – Fern, by utilizing accepted convention as a vehicle for promoting reform, managed to constructively reconcile the obvious contradictions in both her life and literature.

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